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Pop Food As an Artistic Narrative

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Pop Food as a niche.

Made up of real and imaginary food, Pop food is still defined as a niche category. While a quick web search yields scarce results, social media is another story. On Instagram, the #popfood tag has been used over 17k times.

The pop food category is growing, courting art and fashion with digital "mash-ups", using food as an artistic lens and means in which to participate in mainstream narratives and themes.

Places to spot Pop Food.

Society's interest in food, pop culture, pop fashion and pop art has evolved alongside technology, with more and more platforms evolving that allow us to continue to blend and develop these concepts.

On Pinterest the growing genre is a bit easier to spot. Search specifically for “pop food photography” and “pop food art” to get some specific examples. When fashion and art went digital, literally anything we can dream, can be brought to life.

Andy Warhol served 'pop food'.

Pop food was tied into pop art in New York Magazine in 1971. In reference to the food that Andy Warhol served at a party, at his famous warehouse and studio:

“One night there is a party with 'pop' food, hot dogs and beer, pop music with plastic guests in “pop” vinyl clothes, given by a pop collector and his social-climbing wife.”

The reductive pop artist Andy Warhol put the banality of regular American life onto a pedestal. He blended it with the absurd, making the ordinary, extraordinary. This perspective is one of the defining elements of pop food art.

“His genius for manipulating the media is only part of the reason Andy is probably the most famous artist in the twentieth century.” (54)

“...He understands the machinery of myth-making; he can multiply their images so many times that he can make them believe they exist.”

Vulgar Food vs Pop Food

Pop food is an exaggerated or eccentric composition that retains a pleasing aesthetic and level of taste.

The defining characteristic between pop food and vulgar food is that pop food is intended as art, and as art does, it relays a message. Instead vulgar food is meant to be eaten, generally made by mixing together or cooking already processed foods. And while it elicits a "love or hate" reaction its main objective is not to communicate a message.

Just like popular (Pop) foods, pop art is widely well-liked and accepted without much critique. It's simple in terms of taste, impression, and easily accessible.

Brands and consumers are hungry for it.

Food content is some of the most shared in the world because it is something that unites us. Getting creative with food is almost always a win. Even luxury fashion labels have tapped into pop food trends. There have now been endless collaborations and commissions between food and beverage brands, and art and fashion.

Supreme and Oreo for example, collaborated to create deep red cookies. A red wafer sandwiched a white, cream-stuffed middle with the brand's name and eponymous logo stamped on each side. Sold originally for €8/box, they were last heard going for close to €1k on eBay.

There’s no doubt about it, people are hungry for pop food.

New York Magazine, May 31 1971, pg 54-55
Barbara Rose, | Art 
“In Andy Warhol’s Aluminum Foil, We Have All Been Reflected”

American Food Habits in Historical Perspective, Praeger, 1995, pg 204
Elaine N. McIntosh 

American Food: The Gastronomic Story, Dutton 1975, pg 137


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